Bay City News and Staff Reports — The Bay Area News Group, which publishes the Hayward-based Daily Review and the Fremont-based Argus newspapers, announced Thursday that it is reversing course and will allow the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times and most of its other East Bay newspapers to retain their own mastheads.
The newspaper group, which operates 12 daily newspapers in the East Bay, the South Bay and the Peninsula, had announced in August that it was rebranding many of its newspapers to "better reflect the scope of its regional coverage" and would only have two mastheads.
The East Bay Tribune was to incorporate the Oakland Tribune, the Alameda Times-Star, the Daily Review and the Argus; the West County Times and The Times was to incorporate the Walnut Creek-based Contra Costa Times and several other papers in the outlying areas of the East Bay.
But Bay Area News Group President Mac Tully said Thursday, "We have found a way to keep the Oakland Tribune and most mastheads" based on feedback from readers who opposed the proposed change.
"Instead of emphasizing regional news, we will have more in-depth local news, and we think people will be excited about that," Tully said at a news conference at the Tribune after he announced the decision to the paper's staff.
However, starting in early November, Monday editions of the Tribune, Daily Review, Argus and Alameda Times-Star will no longer be home-delivered. An electronic version of those papers will be available to subscribers.
David Butler, editor of the news group's Bay Area newspapers, said the changes planned by the news group will still result in job cuts but not as many as originally planned.
Butler said the group had planned to lay off up to 48 newsroom employees but now only about 25 news employee positions will be cut.
Tully said the news group will still proceed with plans to close its printing press operation in Walnut Creek and move those production operations to an existing printing complex in San Jose.
Carl Hall, the executive officer of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents employees at many news organizations in Northern California and Hawaii, said "the number of layoffs is smaller than we had feared, but it's still a big number."
Hall said the 25 news employees who will be let go represent about 10 percent of the Bay Area News Group's employees in the East Bay and "it's a sad day for journalism quality when you lay off that high a percentage," especially since the news group has cut many other reporters in recent years.
The company also announced to employees a number of efforts intended to increase its foothold in digital media and local news, for example by bringing back a stand-alone local news section, expanding offerings on mobile devices and adding local bloggers.
The roll out of the changes is expected to begin in early November.
The Bay Area News Group is a division of the California Newspapers Partnership, which is owned by Denver-based MediaNews Group along with partners Stephens Media and Gannett Inc.